Featured Stories

Mardis Cyclistes 2017 Season Launch Press Conference Celebrates 40 Years

by John Symon

June 01, 2017 (Lachine, ON) – The Mardis Cyclistes de Lachine (MCL) crit series kicked off its 40th season at a lunchtime press conference in the Montreal borough of Lachine. Joseph “Tino” Rossi, now 77, has been running the popular criterium series around LaSalle Park for more than half of his life. Rossi was as energetic as ever and all smiles but promises that this is his last season in charge.

(l-r) Joseph 'Tino' Rossi (Mardis Cyclistes), Denis Coderre (Montreal Mayor), Claude Dauphin (Lachine Mayor)  ©  Mardis Cyclistes

The passing the flame to Cycle Néron to take over the 10-stage series was intended to begin in 2017, but the changing of the guard has now been delayed until next season. With five bike stores in the Montreal area Cycle Néron is a family affair run by brothers, Jean-François and Marc.

Recently, Mardis Cyclistes saw the injection of $250,000 from the City of Montreal over three years, without which Rossi admits the series might no longer exist. As part of the collaboration Rossi named Montreal mayor, Denis Coderre, as the honorary president of this year’s series.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre  ©  Mardis Cyclistes

At the luncheon, Coderre recalled attending a Mardis press conference in 1999 while he was the federal Minister of Sports. He also talked about creating role models for a healthy lifestyle and for sustainable development, two things that bicycles symbolize. The mayor also bragged about how Montreal was recently declared the third most “bicycle-friendly city” in North America.

Rossi and some cycling friends “discovered LaSalle Park by accident” one evening in 1978 and realized it was a natural circuit for “a crit.” That first evening, Rossi used chalk to mark the start/finish line as seven cyclists raced the one-mile circuit.

Eric Martel of Lacasse  ©  Mardis Cyclistes
Formerly a down-and-out part of Montreal known for drugs and crime, Lachine is now a vibrant community and the borough’s new reputation is based in part on the success of Mardis and cycling. Rossi thanked all of Lachine’s mayors over the past 40 years for their support, but especially Claude Dauphin who currently holds that office.

On the surface, Mardis Cyclistes is an exciting 50km crit held over ten Tuesday evenings each summer along with races for women and youth categories. Rossi’s passion has leveraged the series into something much bigger, into a magical race that has achieved cult status. “I added some decorum and ceremonies,” explains Rossi. Fans remember well his excitment during the countdown to start the weekly races, when Rossi shouts to the pack “Are you ready to rumble?”

(l-r) Jean-Francois Laroche, Claude Dauphin (Lachine Mayor), Denis Coderre (Montreal Mayor), Joseph 'Tino' Rossi (Mardis Cyclistes)  ©  Mardis Cyclistes
From the beginning back in 1978, the races were fast and competitive. In the early years, top Ontario riders such as Steve Bauer, Jocelyn Lovell, and Gord Singleton – even Vancouver’s Alex Stieda – often made the trip to Montreal, racing against Quebec’s top cyclists like Louis Garneau, Pierre Harvey and Claude Langlois. All of these riders went on to win great acclaim in their cycling careers, testimony to what they experienced sprinting around LaSalle Park.

In recent years, top pros from Quebec such as Antoine Duchesne (Direct Energie), Hugo Houle (AG2R), François Parisien (formerly Argos Shimano), David Veilleux (formerly Europcar), and Ontario’s Mike Woods (Cannondale), have all been regulars here. Women riders, such as Joelle Numainville (Cylance Pro), have obtained special derogation to race at Mardis with the men.

The fame of the series extends far beyond Canada. In 2015 Australian Jason Lowndes (Garneau) won the elite men’s overall. This summer, two pro continental teams from France will be making appearances at Mardis Cyclistes including the U19 national team from New Zealand.

Jean-Francois Laroche  ©  Mardis Cyclistes
Last summer saw Jean-François Laroche (Fantino) win his sixth championship among the senior men to rival the record set by Yannick Cojan in 1999. The suspense is whether Laroche can capture another season title this summer and establish a new record of seven season wins.

“Tuesdays are not a very productive office day for me,” admitted Laroche at the conference. “I get so many emails about what our team strategy should be that evening.” Laroche also told Pedal that former Olympic cyclist, Martin Gilbert, will be with the team this year while Pierre-Olivier Boily will also be back again.

The first of 10 stage races in 2017 kicks off on Tuesday, June 6 around LaSalle Park in Lachine. Congratulations on 40 years to Rossi and team on a job well done.

Visit the Mardis Cyclistes de Lachine website here.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.